MRIS, the MLS which covers DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the Virginias and is the nation’s largest MLS, today launched HomesDatabase 2.0, its new public-facing web site.

It’s a pretty impressive effort. HomeDatabase takes its design cues from some of the big listing portals (Zillow and Trulia) but merges it with the extensive listing data available from its own databases, and effectively beating them at their own game.

Though, as pointed out by Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman (who himself operates in MRIS’ service area) in a comment on Techcrunch, it’s not the total market picture. HomesDatabase excludes foreclosures, bank-owned properties or for sale by owner from its results.

Despite that shortcoming, it is still a very nice search experience. Some of the notable features present in HomesDatabase are, foremost, its support for semantic search. Like Dothomes, you can do a natural-language query on the site, like this search I did for a colonial in Annapolis with a pool.

Personally, I also really liked the gallery view – which puts all the properties side by side and allows you to evaluate multiple properties from an esthetic point of view. HomesDatabase also apparently allows you to put selected properties into a “comparison engine” – but I was unable to figure out how to get to this feature.

Another nice touch were the “Amazon-like” recommendations on the listing pages of similar type properties viewed by other users.

As a pure search tool, Home Database drives all traffic back to the listing brokerage or the listing agent for free. MRIS believes that by creating a compelling destination it can help its members better service their customers, the consumers while, at the same time, consumers are looking for a trusted third party to help them find their next home.

MRIS chairman Adam Cockey puts it this way; “Consumers get easy access to all the listings without advertising. And real estate brokers and agents in our market get free exposure and traffic from a site that’s run by their own MLS.”

Not a bad deal in my mind.

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